A Teaching Library

Librarians, in partnership with classroom faculty, teach students the information literacy skills they need to attain their academic goals and become lifelong learners. These course-integrated library instruction classes are part of every First-Year Seminar and some other introductory courses and, at a more advanced level, are included in specialized or advanced courses.

A Teaching Library“While Skillman remains essential to the College as a locus of scholarly information and a place for learning,” says Neil McElroy, dean of libraries, “today it is also distinguished by its robust program of instructional and research support. As a teaching library, we are focused above all on helping faculty and students be successful teachers, learners, and scholars.”

Librarians teach students how to use the libraries’ resources to obtain the information they need. They meet with courses in all disciplines and provide group instruction in library research. Reference assistance is available on weekdays, most evenings, and Sundays; assistance may be requested in person, by phone, and via email or IM.

The popular Personalized Research Assistance (PRA) program, which the librarians promote each semester with an imaginative character-based postcard, provides one-on-one help. Librarians discuss the assignment such as an essay or a research paper and the type of information needed and help students use full-text databases, indexes, and other resources. They also help students acquire hard=to-find materials, provide guidance in locating primary sources, and demonstrate how to evaluate information found online.

“Librarians are an integral part of the Lafayette community, and they enjoy getting to know students,” says Alena Principato ’15, adding that students often see librarians, including McElroy, at lectures, special events, and discussions, such as a monthly group discussion on banned books hosted by Kirby librarian Ana Ramirez Luhrs.

In her first year, Zainab Hussein ’17 says a PRA session with Lijuan Xu, instruction coordinator, helped her prepare a writing assignment for First-Year Seminar as well as an engineering project.

Besides becoming familiar with library resources, search techniques, and ways to evaluate sources, students also discover they can receive assistance in combining electronic information, print sources, and objects or documents in the archives for a multimedia project. Also, students working on honors theses receive an email explaining how librarians can help. The library’s website features interviews with several students about managing a yearlong research project.

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